(When it began and What it is)
I was born on January 5th, 1998 with something my parents were not expecting. It was soft cleft palate. Cleft is the term used to talk about a split and palate is the roof of your mouth. The difference in mine is that it was my soft palate which is the muscular part rather that the bony part. The soft plate is toward the back of your mouth and is connected to the thing that hangs in the back of your throat, which is your uvula. Also my uvula is barely noticeable because of the whole there and repairs. When people hear of this they often connect it to cleft lip which wasn’t the case for me. Mine was only cleft palate, but many people often have cleft lip and palate together. Though others may just have cleft lip.
The first repair of my cleft palate was in October of 1998, when I was only 9 months old. Then at 18 months old, in July of 1999 I had my second repair, which was my last.
The first issue was that when I’d drink anything it would come back up through my nose because of the difficulty swallowing. For example, when I was a baby my parents would feed me starch in my bottles because of another medical issue I have, and they’d always have a mess to clean up afterwards. Because feeding a baby with cleft palate is a lot more difficult than a baby without.
As I got older and began talking, it was obvious I had a speech issue. My issue was with how my S’s and CH’s sounded more nasally. This led to me starting speech therapy at the age of 3. I wasn’t enrolled in school yet, but I was able to take these classes at the elementary school on base. I continued to take speech classes at each school I went to, which was around 3-4 schools. Many of the activities for speech included bringing home work sheets and practicing words that involved these sounds. I especially remember having to repeat phrases such as “Mama Makes Me Mash My M&Ms” and “Sally Sells Seashells By The Seashore.” In the fourth grade, I finally “graduated” as the teachers called it. They said I had improved so much that it was barely noticeable I ever had a problem and that it wasn’t really needed anymore.
Even though I eventually graduated, I faced other problems between that time of speech. In the first grade, I faced one of my more difficult times, that I specifically remember from my cleft palate. Because it was still in the earlier years of learning techniques on how to sound better, I hadn’t improved much, and still sounded very nasally. One kid decided to use this against me and mocked me for it nearly every day. I remember one instance, when we were both standing at the sink and when I said soap he repeated in the way I sounded. These type of things continued to go on, and my parents got involved with the school and I ended up going to the guidance counselor.